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Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Aug 7;277(1692):2371-9. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0163. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Antagonistic effects of floral scent in an insect-plant interaction.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, College of Science, University of Arizona, 1040 East Fourth Street, Tucson, AZ 85721-0077, USA.


In southwestern USA, the jimsonweed Datura wrightii and the nocturnal moth Manduca sexta form a pollinator-plant and herbivore-plant association. Because the floral scent is probably important in mediating this interaction, we investigated the floral volatiles that might attract M. sexta for feeding and oviposition. We found that flower volatiles increase oviposition and include small amounts of both enantiomers of linalool, a common component of the scent of hawkmoth-pollinated flowers. Because (+)-linalool is processed in a female-specific glomerulus in the primary olfactory centre of M. sexta, we hypothesized that the enantiomers of linalool differentially modulate feeding and oviposition. Using a synthetic mixture that mimics the D. wrightii floral scent, we found that the presence of linalool was not necessary to evoke feeding and that mixtures containing (+)- and/or (-)-linalool were equally effective in mediating this behaviour. By contrast, females oviposited more on plants emitting (+)-linalool (alone or in mixtures) over control plants, while plants emitting (-)-linalool (alone or in mixtures) were less preferred than control plants. Together with our previous investigations, these results show that linalool has differential effects in feeding and oviposition through two neural pathways: one that is sexually isomorphic and non-enantioselective, and another that is female-specific and enantioselective.

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